The Victorian Greens appear to have won a second seat in the Legislative Assembly after the distribution of preferences in Prahran last night. Prahran was the last seat to be decided in the lower house (although quite a lot of the races in the Legislative Council remain undecided), and pending a recount appears to have gone to the Greens.
It’s always remarkable when the Greens win a single-member electorate. By my count, the Greens have only ever won two federal electorates and four state electorates, and only four of those six seats were won at general elections.
But Prahran is all the more remarkable because the candidate in third place managed to win on preferences. This is very rare, but it has happened, mostly in cases involving both a Liberal and National running, or the DLP running. A bunch of examples were posted in comments on my previous post. The most recent examples include Blair in 1998, when the Liberal came third and defeated Pauline Hanson, and Denison in 2010, when Andrew Wilkie came third, overtook the Liberal Party on Greens preferences and then beat Labor on Liberal preferences. There was also the 2009 Frome by-election in South Australia where an independent won from third.
When the news first broke yesterday, it was reported that the Greens had overtaken Labor by a 38-vote margin, and then appeared to have beaten the Liberal Party by a 128-vote margin. When the official VEC distribution was released, these numbers were revised upwards to 41 votes and 262 votes respectively.
The Liberal-Green margin, while slim, should be solid enough to withstand a recount. A recount is beginning this morning, and Labor will be hoping to overturn that 41-vote margin at the point where Labor’s Neil Pharaoh was eliminated. That will be very tough, but not quite impossible.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the two-party-preferred vote (which in all cases is between Labor and the Coalition) still shows incumbent Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown beating Pharaoh by 25 votes. This shows that the Greens benefited from stronger preference flows than Labor. Most of these preferences would have come from the other main progressive party, but the Greens also appear to have done slightly better from minor candidates, and this could partly explain them being in a stronger position in a head-to-head contest with the Liberal.
If Labor somehow were to overturn the Greens’ 41-vote margin, this could, therefore, result in Newton-Brown winning. If Labor were to win by finding another batch of Labor votes not correctly counted, then that would result in their 2PP position improving and their party winning. But if Labor were to take the lead over the Greens by knocking out Greens votes (most of which would have flowed to Labor as preferences) then this would improve Newton-Brown’s position and give him the seat.
So, how did the preference distribution work out?
The following chart allows you to click through to each stage.
On primary votes, Labor led the Greens by 408 votes.
First of all, preferences from the three independents and Family First were distributed. The Greens gained 28.6% of these preferences, Liberal 30.5%, Labor 21.55% and Animal Justice 19.3%. In raw numbers, this narrowed Labor’s lead over the Greens by 60 votes, from 408 to 348.
Then Animal Justice was excluded. 57.8% of their preferences flowed to the Greens, with 23.4% flowing to the Liberal and 18.8% to Labor. In raw numbers, the Greens gained 389 more preferences than Labor, and this overturned Labor’s 348-vote lead and gave the Greens a 41-vote lead.
Following this turnaround, Labor’s 9,950 preferences were distributed. The Greens needed about 85.7% of these preferences to win, and they gained just over 87%. The Greens won 8,659 Labor preferences and the Liberal Party won only 1,291 preferences.
And that’s how they did it.